This post is part of The Future of Digital Content series, which discusses six traits I believe will be at the heart what content will look like in the coming years. These traits form a roadmap that lies at the heart of my research and experiments. The traits also work together, mixing and meshing, to paint a picture of how our future selves may read, watch, learn, and listen.

Read the rest of the series.

Let’s recap real fast. We are talking about what content may look like in the future. How is the line between books, television, internet, apps, and other content forms blurring? With shortening attention spans, how will content evolve?

So far, we’ve touched on three:

  1. Mulit-access – we want our content delivered in many different ways.
  2. Multi-modal – we want content that includes several forms of communication (video, text, sound, etc)
  3. Interactive – We want to take control of our destiny (or content). It should respond to us. Personalized.

Half way through and we reach collaborative. Simply put, “maker and audience are distinctions are starting to fade. We can all work together to build content that is something unlike any one person could have planned.

What Does Collaborative Content Mean?

noun: collaboration; plural noun: collaborations
    1. the action of working with someone to produce or create something.

All content is collaborative in some way, even those created by a single author. The author was influenced by others, likely received some feedback, and (since human cannot create something from nothing) mixed existing elements in a new way — all collaboration with unseen individuals. More than that, words on a page serve little purpose without someone to read them, someone with their own ideas, interpretation, views, and colored lenses. The audience will undoubtedly interpret what was written in a slightly (or wildly) different way than the author intended. (A bite-sized philosophy). So, the maker and audience are collaborating, each bringing something to the experience.

That’s all the philosophy we can stomach. lol.

While acknowledging that all content is in some way collaborative, we see that collaboration growing exponentially. No longer will content be controlled by a single mind, or even a small set of people. Large collaborations of every kind will dominate.

This collaboration will come in two primary forms.

Collaboration Between Makers

Especially when thinking about multi-access, multimodal, and interactive content, an enormous amount of work and expertise goes into creating content. Someone must make the video, write the text, edit the sound, create the interactive systems, and so on. While it is possible that one (uber talented) person could do all of this to some degree, most often two or more people with specific talents will collaborate, each doing what she does best. As content becomes increasingly complex, the networks of those making the content must also grow.

Collaboration between Maker and Audience

Not only will artists collaborate to create content, but audiences will collaborate with the artists. The idea of one person throwing content out into the wild and it being accepted is more and more absurd. The audience wants to be a part of the process: providing feedback, choosing the direction, and sharing with friends.

This collaboration exists now, though its mostly invisible: we buy what we like and abandon the rest. However, in the future, collaboration will become more plain. More and more content providers are seeking audience feedback and drastically changing their content to match.

Some Examples

This sort of content already exists:

  • Wikis allow for people to collaborate on documents
  • Feedback systems (voting) allow people to send suggestions to content makers
  • Issue trackers (for tracking bugs in software) allow users to contribute to the development of software
  • Reviews (like on Amazon) allow the audience to currate content
  • Any number of tools exist to help artists collaborate

But we can take it further.

  • “Choose our own adventure stories” allow for collaboration
  • “Forking” content and editing it, then releasing your own version is collaboration
  • Remember the old “you start a story and I’ll finish it” game? Yeah, it could work for content, too.
  • Check out Interactive Content for some more ideas.

And this is just the start. The future is going to be awesome.

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Chris Michaels

Storyteller. Researcher. Coder. Innovator. I seek to push the boundaries of storytelling and education.
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